Non-sugar sweeteners have gained popularity as a low-calorie alternative to sugar. But if you are looking to lose weight, artificial sweeteners may not help in the long run, the WHO says.

The WHO team evaluated a total of 283 studies and determined that the use of non-sugar sweeteners had a low impact on reducing body weight and calorie intake. They also found no change in intermediate markers of diabetes such as glucose and insulin.

"Replacing free sugars with NSS (non-sugar sweeteners) does not help with weight control in the long term. People need to consider other ways to reduce free sugar intake, such as consuming food with naturally occurring sugars, like fruit, or unsweetened food and beverages," said Francesco Branca, WHO director for Nutrition and Food Safety.

Common artificial sweeteners include acesulfame K, aspartame, advantame, cyclamates, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, stevia and stevia derivatives.

The guideline is not for people with preexisting diabetes, as the review did not evaluate the impact of sugar substitutes on people with diabetes.

In its latest guidelines, the WHO warns long-term use of artificial sweeteners has some undesirable effects such as an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and mortality in adults.

"NSS are not essential dietary factors and have no nutritional value. People should reduce the sweetness of the diet altogether, starting early in life, to improve their health," Branca added.

However, the recommendation does not apply to the use of artificial sweeteners in toothpaste, skin cream and medications.

In its 2015 guidelines, the UN agency recommended the daily use of free sugars in children and adults should be less than 10% of their total energy intake. Non-sugar sweeteners gained increasing popularity following this.

"This new guideline is based on a thorough assessment of the latest scientific literature, and it emphasizes that the use of artificial sweeteners is not a good strategy for achieving weight loss by reducing dietary energy intake," nutrition researcher Ian Johnson, emeritus fellow at Quadram Institute Bioscience, in Norwich, United Kingdom, told CNN.

The researcher said the guidelines should not be interpreted as an indication that sugar intake has no relevance in weight control, but instead, people should focus on the use of "raw or lightly processed fruit as a source of sweetness."

Artificial Sweeteners
According to the new guidelines by the WHO, non-sugar sweeteners cannot help in weight control. Photo courtesy of Flickr, frankieleon